Trans­parency is for gov­ern­ment, pri­vacy is for peo­ple

The Denver Post - - PERSPECTIVE - By Jon Cal­dara

On Nov. 27, 2015, Robert Lewis Dear Jr., a self-de­scribed “war­rior for the ba­bies,” ar­rived at the Colorado Springs Planned Par­ent­hood armed with a semi-au­to­matic ri­fle. By the time the po­lice had him in cus­tody, he had killed three and in­jured nine.

So, here’s a ques­tion worth pon­der­ing. How much worse could it have been if be­fore this vi­o­lent mad man de­cided to kill, he knew the names and ad­dresses of the donors to the clinic?

Is it pos­si­ble that be­ing able to anony­mously sup­port a cause, par­tic­u­larly a con­tro­ver­sial one, saves lives? His­tory shows it’s not a hy­po­thet­i­cal ques­tion.

The Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for the Ad­vance­ment of Col­ored Peo­ple is one of the na­tion’s old­est civil rights or­ga­ni­za­tions. Founded in 1909, they called for fed­eral anti-lynch­ing laws, set the case for the Brown vs. Board of Ed­u­ca­tion de­ci­sion, and lob­bied for the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

They have also been tar­gets of vi­o­lent threats and at­tacks. Sto­ries like that of Medgar Evers, the famed civil rights ac­tivist and field sec­re­tary for the NAACP who was mur­dered after his fight to de­seg­re­gate the Univer­sity of Mis­sis­sippi, is just one of too many ex­am­ples.

It doesn’t take a lot to imag­ine why the NAACP has al­ways fought to keep its donors, those who make their very work pos­si­ble, pri­vate. If seg­re­ga­tion­ists could scare away the NAACP’s sup­port­ers by the threat of in­tim­i­da­tion and vi­o­lence, their op­er­a­tions would be ripped away at its root.

In the mid-1950’s the state gov­ern­ment of Alabama hoped to in­tim­i­date and frighten away the NAACP by forc­ing them to make pub­lic their list of donors. The NAACP fought it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won, let­ting them keep their donors pri­vate, and safe, there­fore keep­ing their move­ment alive.

Or­ga­ni­za­tions across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum, in­clud­ing Planned Par­ent­hood, owe them for their brav­ery and the safety that has grown out of it

You’d think this is­sue would be clear and set­tled by now, but there seems to be a ba­sic mis­un­der­stand­ing of what trans­parency is in a sys­tem like ours.

Trans­parency is for gov­ern­ment. Pri­vacy is for peo­ple.

For 18 years I have run that bea­con of po­lit­i­cal in­cor­rect­ness, the free-mar­ket­lov­ing In­de­pen­dence In­sti­tute. And it is near sin­ful how much fun we have work­ing to make Colorado a place where we are free to make our own de­ci­sions. While I can’t imag­ine what groups like the NAACP went through, we too never dis­close our sup­port­ers, even though we’ve been brought to court sev­eral times by po­lit­i­cal foes who think they have a right “get at” our donors.

From pub­lic school teach­ers who fear ret­ri­bu­tion from the teach­ers unions to busi­ness­peo­ple who need to sur­vive their deal­ings with Colorado’s 3,700 gov­ern­ments, we be­lieve our sup­port­ers should be guar­an­teed pri­vacy.

We also feel that groups like ours shouldn’t lose our right to free speech be­cause of it. But sadly, that’s what cam­paign fi­nance laws do.

In 2014 we wanted to run a ra­dio ad ask­ing both of Colorado’s U.S. sen­a­tors to sup­port a bill re­form­ing fed­eral sen­tenc­ing laws. But be­cause it was “too close” to the elec­tion and one of those sen­a­tors, Mark Udall, hap­pened to be on the bal­lot, cam­paign fi­nance laws stopped us, even though we weren’t weigh­ing in on the elec­tion in the slight­est. Ac­cord­ing to the McCainFein­gold Act, if we ran the ad, we’d have to dis­close our donors.

No one’s right to speak should be sub­servient to a cal­en­dar. If we have a right to say some­thing on Mon­day, with­out mak­ing our sup­port­ers vul­ner­a­ble, shouldn’t we have the same right to say the same thing on Tues­day? So off to court we went.

Sadly, the U.S. Supreme Court re­cently re­fused to hear our case, that one empty seat on the court al­most cer­tainly be­ing the rea­son the court didn’t have the votes to con­sider it. Hope­fully with a full court the is­sue will be re­solved in the fu­ture.

From Cato’s Let­ters to pam­phlets writ­ten un­der pen names, anony­mous speech played a key role in our na­tion’s birth. It is no less im­por­tant to­day. Jon Cal­dara is pres­i­dent of the In­de­pen­dence In­sti­tute, a freemar­ket think tank in Den­ver, and host of “Devil’s Ad­vo­cate” on Colorado Pub­lic Tele­vi­sion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.